Everyone knows the evocative power of memory certain flavours and scents have over people - many people remember the smell of their first perfume, or the taste of their first forbidden alcoholic beverage. Every now and then I'll catch a whiff of something and then become astounded by the strength of the image or memory that scent brings to mind.
I cooked from a recipe for the first time in my life when I was in year 7. My teacher was elderly, crotchety, unforgiving, and had lost her passion for her subject (and was constantly calling me "Janice"), but when she got my class into the school kitchens and handed us our recipes, I was excited as anything. My potatoes still had bits of peel on them, I was almost too scared to use the knives, and I overcooked the mince, but at the end of the period I presented my shepherd's pie, pleased as punch.
I got a 4 out of 10.
However, I did try my best to perfect this dish at home, and I still use that recipe as the basis for my shepherd's pie today. One bite of this pie, with succulent mince and cubes of carrot and onion hidden away like little jewels, and with it's creamy mash top and melted cheese, takes me back to simpler days when the most pressing thing on my mind was how to make a shepherd's pie.
1 tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, halved, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
400g beef mince
1 1/2 tbs plain flour
300ml beef stock
1 tbs tomato paste
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 potatoes, peeled, chopped (I used desiree_
Grated cheese (I used colby)
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add mince and brown for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add flour and stir until combined. Add stock and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, about 20 - 30 mins. Season.
2. Boil potato in salted boiling water until tender. Drain, then return to the pan with the butter. Mash, then add milk. Combine, then season with salt and pepper.3. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spoon mince mixture into an 8-cup capacity baking dish. Top with mashed potato and cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 10 - 15 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve immediately